A law to allow unlimited fines on rogue property owners has passed its first hurdle this week (Tuesday 22 September) in the House of Commons.
The Planning (Proper Maintenance of Land) Bill was introduced by the MP for Stoke-on-Trent North, Jonathan Gullis, who introduced the Bill in response to the damage being caused to the Price & Kensington Factory in Longport.
“After seeing the appalling state of the iconic Price & Kensington Teapot Works, it was obvious that the law is not strong enough to punish those who sit back and allow our proud industrial heritage to crumble.”
“This was made blindingly clear when the City Council successfully took the owner to court, who was found guilty, but the maximum fine that could be handed down was a mere £1,000. The estimated costs of repairing Price & Kensington stand at over £5 million, so the owner rather pays the £1,000 fine than cough up the money to repair the building,” commented Mr Gullis.
The Bill seeks to replace the maximum fine the courts can levy of £1,000 with an unlimited fine. This will grant the courts the flexibility to levy a fine that they see fit in response to the actions of the rogue property owner on a case by case basis.
The Bill also has support from Historic England, the national body for the protection of heritage.
Duncan Wilson, Chief Executive of Historic England, in a letter to Mr Gullis wrote, “Historic England supports your efforts to bring this matter to the attention of Parliament and to secure a more robust framework for fines when necessary.”
Heritage Champion for Stoke-on-Trent, James Smith, is also backing Jonathan’s efforts to change the law.
“It is great to see the Bill pass the first stage on its way to becoming law, and exciting to see Stoke-on-Trent on the national stage pressing the matter for better protection for our heritage. The law will help the City Council take tougher action against other absent property owners, such as the owner of the Central Hotel in Burslem and the Tams Factory in Longton. Many buildings in Stoke-on-Trent will benefit from this change in the law.”
The Planning (Proper Maintenance of Land) Bill now moves to the next parliamentary stage, its Second Reading, to take place on 29 January 2021.